Ya gotta believe: Five things the Mets can do to contend in 2013


The New York Mets are looking to restore the magic.

As a New York Mets fan, one can often feel like something of a punching bag. First of all, we live in close proximity to the Yankees, the closest thing baseball’s had to a dynasty in a generation. Secondly, the Wilpons. Third, the epic collapse. Fourth, getting clowned by the Bernie Madoff scheme. Fifth … well, you get it.

In light of the above, it’s easy to forget that the Mets are only a handful of years from being one out — and one Yadier (bleeping) Molina home run — from the World Series. Jimmy Rollins chirped to the world that we (and by “we,” I henceforth loosely mean the Mets) had no heart, and it worked — to the tune of one of the most embarrassing season-ending collapses in major league history. That was right before a string of injuries, bad luck and bad contracts doomed the Mets to several years of frustrating mediocrity that many speak of as if it’s been decades-long … to which I reply, have you seen the Pirates’ past couple of decades? Then again, the Pirates have stuck around late enough in the season that they almost seem clear of their running-joke status, and even the Orioles are finally getting out of their own way, so let’s just get back to the Mets.

In order to break through the water-treading mediocrity that has bedeviled them in recent seasons, the Mets need only make a few moves. That’s right — they really aren’t that far! Preposterous, you say? Well, here are five things that can have them contending seriously in 2013.

1. Send Jason Bay back to the American League

Look, I have nothing against Jason Bay. He came here with excessive hype, having flourished in hitters parks and under the radar. But that’s the thing. While Shea Stadium and Citi Field have killed the power numbers of bigger sluggers than Bay, and even dampened the numbers of guys like Mike Piazza, it’s also the case that Shea and Citi have exposed previously-thought-to-be-power-hitters like Bay for what they are: gap-to-gap line-drive hitters with warning-track power. Bay hit for power in Boston, because if he got under it a bit, it left the yard or banged off the Green Monster. Even his line-drive floaters were doubles in Fenway, and moreover, he played in the AL East, which is chock-full of hitter-friendly parks. You might retort that he hit well in Pittsburgh, leading me to the second part of my point, which is, in Pittsburgh, he was basically off the grid. Not much pressure there, playing for a perennial bottom-feeder, while there’s tons of pressure playing for an East Coast team, on the cusp of contending, that pins their hopes on your cleanup prowess. And then, during his time here, Bay’s been concussed twice and has broken his ribs — mostly while hustling on defense (though, to be fair, he is quite a good defender) to make up for his disappointments at the plate. He’s swung big and long, and swung at a lot of junk, and spiraled. He’s become, at a less-than-advanced age, a shell of himself — but I think that with a new start he can be effective somewhere. Somewhere where he can bat fifth or sixth, hit a lot of doubles and drive in runs, throw out base runners and not kill his career trying to make up for a bad impression. We can trade low for him, maybe get a serviceable relief pitcher and clear room for move number two …

2. Make Mike Baxter and Jordany Valdespin the core of the outfield

Mike Baxter has good speed and hustle; he gets a good jump on the ball, and he plays a good left field. He’s got a steady bat and nice athleticism, and the makings of a solid overall hitter. Jordany Valdespin is fast, energetic and strong, and he looks like still might fill out a bit. He and Baxter could make a nice one-two punch at the top of the order, as long as Valdespin keeps his batting average high enough to hit from the two-hole. Neither would have to be slap-happy about stealing bases, either; having two fast, aggressive athletes at the top of the order puts plenty of pressure on a defense. David Wright is a legitimate number-three hitter, and with that sort of athleticism on the bases, Wright could stick to being the kind of hitter he is at his best: line-drive dominant, with 15-20 home run power. Daniel Murphy would be a dream in the five spot, as a lefty doubles machine who makes good contact and rarely makes a bad out. We’d just need a good cleanup bat between them, which brings me to my next point …

3. Sell high on Ike Davis, and groom Lucas Duda as a cleanup hitter

I was all about Ike Davis after his rookie year — embarrassingly so, in retrospect — and I still think he has ridiculously high potential. A kid who can hit 20 home runs by August, despite a whiny temperament at the plate and a backyard-home-run-derby swing and oft-infuriating pitch selection? With Citi Field as a home park? That’s a kid with upside. If he hit in a dinger-happy bandbox like Cincinnati or Baltimore, his ludicrous hacking could net him even more home runs — and mask his flaws as a hitter. Basically, Ike seems on his way to becoming Carlos Pena: threatening, potentially valuable, but more suited to a hitter’s park or an AL lineup. Ike’s also got a nice glove at first base, which could add to his market value and maybe get us another top-of-the-rotation starter. As for Lucas Duda, he showed real promise last year: an ability to hit different kinds of pitches, an ability to hit situationally and to left field, and absurd natural power. He’s still a work in progress on defense in right field, but if Baxter or Valdespin can blossom in center, the two will give him plenty of outfield protection. He’s definitely got the kind of arm you like to see in right field. If he can settle in, then the outfield would be set; we could leave Murphy at second base, where he’s gotten considerably smoother, and…

4. Pick up a centering clubhouse presence at first base

One thing I believe about the strong Mets teams of the mid-2000s: They were largely held together by Carlos Delgado. Not just because of his prodigious bat and underrated defense, but because of his calm and commanding aura of leadership. The Mets need a leader, and the closest they’ve had to one since Delgado’s absence has been Johan Santana. I’m not one to discount the leadership value of an ace, but a leader, especially of young and energetic talent, is more of a presence from within the everyday lineup. The Mets need one of those guys — and because we have bats, he needn’t be a whopper like Delgado. He can be a solid veteran presence with a good professional bat, like what Aubrey Huff was for the Giants, or he can be an underrated middle-order stalwart like Paul Konerko, who people still forget to talk about when discussing the best first basemen in the majors. But we need a centering presence, with the kind of inner calm that prevents losing streaks from turning into swoons. We have youthful scrappiness and athleticism, and neither Reyes (too hyperactive and self-contained, despite the correlations between his performance and the Mets’ successes — also too injury-prone) nor Wright (not vocal enough, and seems to press a bit from time to time) ever grew into the clubhouse leaders we had hoped they’d become. We need a good, solid, talk-to-the-young-cats type of cornerstone, and I believe they’re out there to be had. And then we need to …

5. Stop over-platooning and let the lineup settle

I’ve never been a fan of managers who change the lineup too much from night to night. I get the value of platooning at, say, one position where the players are clearly complementary, but I also believe there’s some value in knowing where you stand, as a player and in the lineup. It is possible for lefties to hit lefties, and righties to hit righties; sometimes, you just have to trust your guy to get a hit. How is Duda going to improve against left-handed pitching when not only does he not get much practice, but the team displays no confidence in his ability to do so? Scott Hairston, a righty, is a guy who can play multiple infield and outfield positions and hit with game-changing power off the bench; Kirk Nieuwenhuis, an athletic lefty with speed and occasional power, can play every outfield position and provide lefty pop in the late innings. We can keep Ronny Cedeno as a backup middle infielder, and that’s not too bad of a bench. With the current Met players, I think we have a solid one-two punch to lead off (Baxter and Valdespin), a bona-fide three hitter (Wright), a viable four-five hitter (Duda), and a patient, quick and smart .300 hitter who can back up the order nicely (Ruben Tejada). Kelly Shoppach is a solid-hitting catcher, and I believe Josh Thole can rediscover the promising slap-hitter who emerged earlier in his career. Add a veteran presence at first base, with decent enough power to hit fifth or sixth, and that’s a darn good lineup. Dickey and Harvey are a good one-two pitching punch. Get another starting pitcher, from the minor leagues or via a Davis and/or Bay trade, and we have a solid rotation with Young and Niese in the middle and Santana drawing mismatches at or near the back end. Then, maybe our bullpen can relax, get some occasional mental and physical rest, and perform to their abilities — Jon Rauch, Bobby Parnell and some of our other guys do have stuff. Just a few moves, and voilà! A contender. A darn good team, actually.

Ya gotta believe.

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  1. We definitey need a real centerfieder. I think if we se early on Davis, we can get that or something good. Duda’s best position is sti 1B, so we can move him there and get a good corner outfieder. I think Valdespn and Baxter have serious upside…and remember, the Yankees have also in their dynastic years had a knack for using journeymen to buttress their lineup with success. Aaron Boone, Eric Chavez, other guys who seemed to put it back together upon joining the Yankees…I think part of why that’s happened because they aren’t expected to he “the answer” when they get to the team. I think if Bay had come in during the Piazza/Delgado days, he’d have killed it…but he just wasn’t cut out to come to a big market team and be a franchise guy. That brings it back to the core; they Mets have a good energetic stable of young and talented cats, but they need a CF and a good infusion of steadying leadership. I wouldn’t be surprised if Bay went somewhere else, where he could play a biit more under the radar and bat 6th, he had a big comeback year–but it won’t be here, that seems sure. As for catcher, Thole has been flat-out frustrating…but I think Schoppach is a nice addition. He’s had good seasons in the AL East, which means he can handle pressure and some spotlight; he’s got power, which is nice to have in the catcher position, and is a guy we could put in the 7 hole to put up 12-15 home runs and a bunch of doubles. He’s also a veteran, which isn’t bad. And maybe if Thole could take spot duty, he’d be a nice option as a backup catcher. he’s still young. We DO need a for-real closer, and Bobby Parnell just doesn’t seem to have the stomach for taking it over.

  2. As a Mets fan since 1971, experiencing many ups and downs is par for the course playing in the shadow of one the best managed franchises in baseball…The NY Yankees (unfortunately). While I agree with some of your points (namely, get rid of Jason Bay and sell high on Ike Davis), the idea of placing Mike Baxter and Valdespin as outfield staples and grooming Duda as a clean-up bat doesn’t seem like enough firepower for the mets to get to the playoffs as a second wild card. None of these players has proven to me that they’re winners…while the Yankees continue to trade for, or pay the best winning players in the game, the Mets continue to cobble together a team of also-rans (Jason Bay, Scott Hairston, Frank Francisco) and never was’s (Josh Thole, Mike Nickeas, Rob Johnson, Daniel Murphy, Justin Turner, Lucas Duda, (the now departed) Miguel Batista, etc,, etc…) Last winter, the Mets missed their chance to pick up a clutch HR hitting first baseman in Prince Fielder (who was the “winner” in the Brewers franchise). Maybe it was money, or lack thereof, but I see the Mets franchise as playing checkers when it comes to building a winner, while the remainder of the league plays chess. I don’t see the Mets’ as currently assembled (on the farm or at the mlb level), producing anything higher than mediocrity unless they bring in marquis winning players at key positions (1B, 2B, OF and C). The positive, somehow the A’s put a winning team on the field most years and spend less than most teams, maybe Sandy, Terry and the crew can accomplish the same.

  3. p.s. I’ve got to say, I hope Ike proves me wrong. He’s been staying back on the ball more lately, and that will make him the bona-fide beast he was in his first year. Duda’s back up, too, and hitting nicely. I still think that Collins is too platoon-happy, and I still think they need a veteran presence to center them. Their young pitchers are looking nice, and they really have to figure out their leadoff hitter and starting centerfielder–is not Ellsbury, then someone else. It’s nice to see them take a couple from the Phillies, either way!

  4. KY–I’m with you on Ike as a favorite; like I said, I was REALLY on the Davis bandwagon last year! So much so, in fact, that I drafted him way too soon in fantasy. As for Wright, I wouldn’t argue with selling high on him, though his defense has improved in terms of consistency (he’s always good for web gems, but he used to throw it all over the place–without a really good first baseman, he’d make a ton more errors) and his hitting approach has returned to what it was when he was at his most effective. I’d trade Wright, too, but I’d do it for a top-line starting pitcher and maybe a corner infielder. I was at the Cyclones game this weekend, and our OF prospect Brandon Nimmo looks pretty good…

  5. Thanks Ronald! About the bats: I surely think that the aforementioned veterab 1B presence needs to be a solid bat; that’s why I said it should be a 4-5-6 spot hitter, I think it should be a guy with bona-fide power potential. I just think I’d rather have a guy who’s less all-or-nothing than Ike, especially in a park like Citi. The kind of player Aubrey Huff was when the Giants snagged him, or even a Todd Helton type–again, the two years ago Todd Helton, haha! As for the speed/average combination, funny you should say that–a few days after I wrote this article, the Sox put Jacoby Ellsbury on waivers, and I wrote a brief follow-up suggesting they grab him. So I’m with you there. But I think that both Baxter and Valdespin have to-order speed, and I think they both have the potential to hit for enough average to be relevant at the top of the order. A leadoff guy doesn’t need to hit for a super high average, if he walks at least a bit and is capable of creating havoc whenever he’s involved; I think of cats like Scott Podsednik in his prime, or even Andres Torres in his good year with the Giants, and both of them were speed merchants who didn’t hit for jaw-dropping average but got on base often enough to be a real threat because their speed was such a force-multiplier. Even the fact that anything even close to a gap is a potential double coming out of the box, that makes Valdespin a headache for opponents at the top of the order. I think our bats managed to put together pretty good offensive numbers the past couple of years, despite the things we agree they lack; this, to me, is because they’re athletic and tenacious and balanced, and capable of producing runs in counterintuitive ways. Imagine if we had a kid like Tejada, for example, hitting late in the order? Of course, this is contingent on getting that other middle-order bat…

    I suppose this needn’t turn into another article, haha but suffice to say I see where you’re coming from. The Sox need a first baseman now, by the way, since the Adrian Gonzalez experiment was a flop! Sometimes guys just don’t fit in certain places; Gonzales has returned to form back on the west coast, maybe Ike can find himself in Fenway while we put Ellsbury in CF.

    Cheers!

  6. Look I apologized. I understand that this is a website operated and written by the low iq set designed to be read by liked minded individuals. I understand that now and am thus sorry for my initial criticism. I now understand why the substance of the original article was so off base and so breathtakingly incorrect. “Simplistic” would be a good way to put it.
    “Hey guys, what if the Mets traded away all their bad players for good players? That’s a neato suggestion!!!”. Hey, wait a minute, that sounds like Sandy Alderson. Oh no, the Mets’ GM is also part of the low iq set. Now, that explains why the Mets are mired in such a deep mess. Much like Todd Rundgren, I just saw the light. Thank you.

  7. Ira. Enough with the name calling. One more and you will be banned.

    Comments on this site, like any other site, will be done without being immature and attacking. You attacked the website, questioned it’s integrity, name called our writer, and acted like a four year old.

    If you want to disagree with an article, you can disagree and state the facts on why you disagree. In your last two posts, there wasn’t any criticism, it was a bunch of ramble on why you think our writer has a low IQ. You can debate all you want, don’t make this a personal agenda.

  8. Excuse me. “My bad”. I have reviewed this website, which frankly I had no knowledge of. It is apparently a website for retarded people written by retarded people. Thus, as the author apparently has a very low iq, I have reassess what I wrote and give him a big thumbs up. Good job! Bravo.

  9. This may be the single stupidest article written about the Mets that I have read in some time. I am now sure if it’s the product of a profoundly low iq or some other deficit, but it is articles like this that make think that out of billions of websites, there are only 1 or 2 actually worth reading. Most are just contain useless throwaway “information” that could be spewed by a 8 year old. And not a very particularly bright 8 year old at that.

    You make me think of Sandy Alderson’s comedic response the other day that he was going to now look for “productive” players this off-season. Good job Sandy. Talk about a grand epiphany that was unexpected. Does he mean that he spent the last 2 years looking for unproductive players? If so, then he has been a rousing success. Are his player evaluation skills so bad that he couldn’t realize that most of the players on his team stink and are unproductive? Does he not know what a productive outfielder looks like? Obviously not judging by who he has patrolling his outfield.

    So, now he says that he is going to acquire players through trades. Good boy. Exactly who are you going to trade? Do you think perhaps the Nationals will trade Bryce Harper for a package of Josh Thole and Andres Torres? The problem is that he has zero trading chips, unless he trades his blue chip pitching prospects, of which he has only 2.

    I think what was also quite revealing about the incompetence of the organization is how they handled McHugh after his brilliant start. He got demoted in favor of a scrub. Why? Why would you waste time with a D grade prospect and give him another start when you potentially have someone who could actually help you?

    I have much more to say.

  10. You really hit the problem in that last paragraph. The lineup has no idea what roles they play as far as hitters go. Terry changes them literally every day. You are 100% correct in stating that the lineup needs to settle in…and get comfortable. Sadly….I don’t think that will happen under TC no matter how good the players he has in there. He is a split freak, and loves platoons.
    The only thing I don’t agree with is your assessment of our bats. This team is far too weak. While needing a calming veteran voice other than Wrights, we need at least one very strong power hitter and two players that can hit for average and have some speed.

    Nice article.

  11. Being that Ike Davis is my fav player on e team hate this article duda can be a good hitter I know but his power is not Ike Davis and davis is younger I believe sell high on David wright bring in some outfield prospects and take 2013. The thing is mets keep trying to make a contender out of nothing which is just setting us back. We have some good hitting prospects that deserve a chance let them play in 2013

  12. This is just silly, Paul. Failing to recognize that the Mets aren’t CLOSE to contending renders your suggestions moot and hurts your credibility as an analyst. As for thinking that selling low on Ike Davis is a good idea, well, let’s just say it’s not. They’d get next to nothing for him now in trade, and they have nothing to lose in what is clearly a rebuilding year in 2013 to see if he can bounce back and reach his potential. In any case, the idea that cutting down on platooning will let players ‘settle in’ doesn’t make sense. Players play best when their chances to succeed are optimized. Platooning does that. It didn’t hurt Stengel’s Yankees and Weaver’s Orioles. Platooning, by itself, doesn’t unsettle anyone.

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